Thursday, June 15 - what a day that was! I started paddling at 9:00 am and climbed wearily out of my kayak at 9:30 pm at Fort Selkirk. The riverbank there is quite high, maybe about ten feet, but there is a wooden ramp that makes it easier to get to the top. I carried my gear to the camping area. There were several tents already there but because it was so late no one was about. Everyone had their kayaks by their tents so I went back and brought mine up also. Since the last time I had passed through, a fairly large cabin had been built. It had large windows facing the river, three large picnic tables, a large wood burning stove and clotheslines strung across the room. It had been raining slightly in the late afternoon so I hung up my wet Gore-Tex coat while I ate.
I didnít take a tour around Fort Selkirk this time. The hour was late and I had been around the village on the first trip. It was being restored by natives and had been well worth stopping there. Even though I got to sleep at 2:00 am, I still got up really early and was the first one back on the river. There was no reward or prize or even applause for being first. So I don't know why I left so early. The other campers were still sound asleep when I left Fort Selkirk.
As I neared Carmacks, I saw a new sign nailed to a tree by the riverbank, indicating there was a campground five miles above Carmacks. The sign also said there were showers, a laundromat and a small take-out restaurant at the campground. I decided to stop there rather than go on to Carmacks. I was tired from the previous day, it was early in the afternoon and I would have a chance to shower, wash clothes, eat at the restaurant and rest. There were quite a few people camping there. Some had come in kayaks, some in canoes and some by car. There is a highway that follows the river to Carmacks, crosses the bridge there and continues on to Dawson City.
Having washed myself, my clothes and rested well at the campground, I was able to get up early and head for Carmacks. I had decided to have breakfast at a restaurant in Carmacks, so didnít have to cook. After I passed under the Blue Bridge I stayed close to the left bank where the town is. Not far past the bridge there is a public campground but it has no facilities and itís damp and dreary looking. I was glad I had not stayed there. As I drifted by I could see no tents, kayaks or canoes there.
My breakfast at the restaurant (in the town's only motel) consisted of a large mushroom omelet, toast and a large helping of hash browns. I think it set me back about $5.00 - well worth the price. After I finished eating I walked to the grocery store to resupply my food bag which was starting to look emaciated. Because there was still some food in the bag, I only bought enough for three days.
I had to carry the two heavy grocery bags about a quarter of a mile back to the kayak, which I had pulled part way up the riverbank and tied to some shrubs. On my first trip there had been a dock at the riverside but it was now gone. Maybe one of the spring breakups of ice had taken the dock downstream.
As soon as I had the food in the kayak, I cast off and continued down the river. Several miles below Carmacks is Five Finger Rapids. Five large and very tall granite pillars rise out of the river creating the rapids. They are spaced fairly evenly across the river. There is a viewing platform above the river on the right hand side.
I had run the rapids on my first trip. Then I had used a two-person kayak that had no rudder and had made me use my paddle more than I wanted for steering. At that time the water was lower but the rapids were still quite impressive. I had been told to stay to the right as I ran the rapids. The same information was shared by Gus Karpes in a book he had written. He reported some canoeists had gone down the middle of the rapids and ended up swimming to shore. There had also been some less fortunate people who had lost their lives. Heeding the advice, I shot through the rapids between the last two pillars on the right. I looked for the smooth tongue of water and almost centered it. The kayak, with me in it yet, was thrown to the left but did not roll. The passage through had only lasted a few seconds.
This time the water level was much higher and there was no smooth tongue of water to aim for. There was just violent water ahead of me. But once again, I made it through safely. The waves did wash over the kayak and on up to my chest. The rudder helped me keep a straight line through the worst of the waves and once again I emerged on the downstream side in a matter of seconds. The water continued to flow much faster for about a half mile. I enjoyed the ride.
The maps I had and the maps in the book by Karpes showed that Rink Rapids were about seven miles below Five Finger Rapids. Again, to pass safely through with the least amount of risk, people were advised to stay to the right. This trip, as well as on the first one, there was a white line of foaming water all the way across the river. But, even for me who had never really paddled in rapids, I didnít consider Rink Rapids much of a rapid. It just seemed that the river was shallower and flowed over submerged rocks.
Thankful for having gotten through both rapids safely, I began to look for a place to stop even though it was quite early yet. The river was very high and camping places seemed to be few and far between. It was hours later that I finally found a barely decent place to stop for the night.
I knew then that I would not be in Dawson City until Sunday.
Show Low, Arizona